Sunday, 2 March 2014

Pirelli Stadium - Burton Albion

Burton Albion 2-1 Accrington Stanley

1st March 2014


I am more than a little shamefaced to own up to having had to pore over a road map in order to ascertain exactly where Burton was before this trip.  I knew the town enjoyed a strong brewing heritage, so rather assumed it must lie close to one of the large population areas of perhaps Manchester or Birmingham.  But no, there it lay nestling tucked away in the Stafforshire countryside.

As someone who has enjoyed an occasional pint of beer over the years, I felt it would only be fitting to pay my respects by combining my visit with a trip to the National Brewing Museum, housed within the town.


Claymills Victorian Pumping Station from across the River Trent.


But upon reaching the outskirts of Burton, I noticed to my left a large imposing red-bricked building, and on a whim detoured to have closer look.  I learned this was a semi-restored Victorian pumping station, open to the public.  And what a delight it was.  Completed in 1885 to help shift the effluent from the local breweries, the plant was closed in 1971 and thereafter left derelict for the following 20 or so years, until a group of volunteers was formed to attempt to restore, at least part of it.

And what a job they have done; not only arresting the decay but restoring much of the pumping station to working order, right down to restoring the paintwork and scouring the countryside to recover the original smaller steam engines which had found their way into the (0ften neglectful) hands of various museums and collectors.  Talk about a labour of love.

I spent two hours (which whizzed by) being shown around the place by Andrew, an affable middle-aged chap with an endearing line in self-deprecating wit, who managed to walk that fine line between being genuinely informative and knowledgeable, without ever drifting into anorak-obsessiveness.  He dealt with all of my, at times na├»ve, questions with patience and tolerance, to the extent I now feel I could confidently discourse on the importance of wrought iron fish belly pump rods – should any social occasion require it.

Unfortunately for me I had chosen to drop in on a day when the boilers were not “in steam”, and would suggest to anyone planning to visit they do so on one of these six or seven occasions yearly when the beast is fired up.  Witnessing those huge beams rocking back and forth must truly be a sight to behold.


Claymills Victorian Pumping Station, Burton-on-Trent.

Claymills Victorian Pumping Station, Burton-on-Trent.

Claymills Victorian Pumping Station, Burton-on-Trent.

Claymills Victorian Pumping Station, Burton-on-Trent.


The pumping station lies only a mile or so from Burton Albion’s new(ish) ground, The Pirelli Stadium.  Although, if truth be told I rather wish their previous home Eton Park, had also been given the restoration treatment.  But that is solely due to my love of old football grounds, rather than any comment upon The Pirelli.  For the club’s present home is a rather smart affair with its covered terracing and rather sleek main stand offering, as all grounds should IMO, both home and away fans the option of standing or sitting. 

My only grouse with the place was my old bugbear: open corners.  I noted one had been filled in; surely doing the same with the other three would not have been too expensive?


The Pirelli Stadium main entrance - Burton Albion FC

Pirelli Stadium - Burton Albion FC.

Pirelli Stadium - Burton Albion FC



This season is only Albion’s fifth in the Football League since achieving promotion in 2009, and one has to say they have made a decent fist of things, even succeeding in reaching the play-offs last season.  And those play-offs must I feel be the absolute minimum the club is aiming for this season, sitting as it is at the start of play this afternoon in 5th place.   Although, I noted, a dose of the wobbles had seen them fail to win any of the previous four matches.  

The afternoon’s visitors Accrington Stanley, by contrast, were having a dreadful time of things and looked to have major relegation battle in the post.


First-half it really was not hard to see why, as Burton bossed their guests in pretty much every area of the park.  Home forwards Billy Kee and Dominic Knowles proved to be a real handful for the Stanley defence; quite literally at times, with central-defensive pairing of Tom Aldred and Dean Winnard employing all manner of wrestling moves to subdue their opponents.  When set-plays were to be defended, Stanley’s imposing forward Kayode Odejayi lent his muscle to proceedings, often by the simple tactic of unceremoniously tossing to the floor whoever he happened to be marking at the time.  All under the seemingly benevolent eye of referee Mr Haines.

But the most intriguing business of the first-half was the tussle between Albion’s Zeli Ismail (that rarest of things these days seemingly; a right footed winger who actually plays on the right) and his marker, Accrington’s Irish full-back Michael Liddle.  Ismail perhaps just shaded the first-half on points, but the battle between these two for dominance really was quite engrossing.

For all their control, Burton reached the break only one goal up, the impressive Billy KEE’s deflected shot in the 34th minute somehow trickling past visiting ’keeper Marcus Bettinelli.

The second period began with more of the same, but then gradually the visitors' midfield began to impose themselves on proceedings.  The gap between the Burton forwards and their supply inexorably widened, and those first-half passes to the feet Kee and Knowles had enjoyed became second-half long balls, which did not play to their strengths at all.  

Additionally, I noted Lee Molyneux had began occasionally dropping back to help Liddle deal with Ismail; with the result the winger became a forlorn and forgotten figure out on his flank.

The visitors’ pressure finally paid off 20 minutes from time when WINNARD glanced in a free-kick from the Burton left; and I for a moment thought he was going to run all the way out of the ground during his celebration.  But a draw, which was what I felt Stanley probably deserved for their second-half display, was denied them by the same Mr Winnard getting up to his old WWF tricks just once too often, with KEE scoring the resultant penalty.

Things all got a bit heated at time-up, with the many of the Stanley players surrounding and berating the officials.  And, whilst the penalty decision had perhaps been a touch soft, Winnard, Odejahi and Aldred had really been very fortunate not to have been punished for their grapplings much earlier.

The aforementioned Aldred was one of the few Scots on display this afternoon.  Perhaps this was not one of his better days, but he did have the look about him of one of those footballers who, were he half-a-foot shorter would probably be a plumber.  He did provide the day's funniest moment however, with his almost tearful cameo when no-one (not even his own goal-keeper) would kick the ball out of play to allow him to get his foot back into its boot.



Accrington's Peter Murphy (red) and Burton's Matty Palmer

Accrington goalkeeper saves Albion's Billy Kee's first-half header 1

Accrington goalkeeper saves Albion's Billy Kee's first-half header 2

Accrington goalkeeper saves Albion's Billy Kee's first-half header 3

This pic perhaps gives an indication just of how intimate the 
Burton forwards became with their markers at times.

Robert Lainton - Burton Albion FC. 


And it all got a little fractious at the end - Accrington's Piero Mignoia tries to
play peacemaker as the Burton constabulary monitors events.

Panorama of Pirelli Stadium, Burton Albion FC.

Panorama of Pirelli Stadium, Burton Albion FC.







        

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